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Title: Water & Garri Director: Meji Alabi Year: 2024 Running time: 1h 20 minutes In Water and Garri, Tiwa Savage finds her first lead role…

Title: Water & Garri
Director: Meji Alabi
Year: 2024
Running time: 1h 20 minutes

In Water and Garri, Tiwa Savage finds her first lead role in the film industry. Written by Comfort Emmanuel and directed by Meji Alabi, Water and Garri was shot in Cape Coast, Ghana. The film is a throwback to her 2021 EP of the same title. And while Tiwa might have proven herself as a musician, the same cannot be said of her as an actress.

Tiwa Savage plays Aisha, a successful fashion designer in America who returns home to Eastside after a family bereavement. Upon return, she finds that things have changed, and she must now face the grief that made her leave home. Her home, Eastside, is a vista, something Camilo Monsalve Ossa takes due advantage of as cinematographer. Tiwa predictably anchors music, segueing multiple sequences throughout the film. The technical angle suffices, but there are other more serious problems this film needed to prioritise. The dialogues are sappy and suspiciously improvisational. The general pacing, plot and line delivery, are slow.

The first obvious problem is how much telling is going on with the voiceovers, and how badly delivered they are. There is nothing the voiceovers supplied to the film that it didn’t already have visually. It quickly became a superfluous baggage to a sagging film. Naturally, this transposes into the visual performances. Andrew Bunting’s portrayal of the gangster Kay is a plastic depiction of a gritty gangster. He looked and behaved closer to a male video vixen than a gangster controlling a dangerous turf.

The same applies to Tiwa, who plays the lead here. She clearly has levels to climb as an actress. There is a polished, controlled texture to her performance that doesn’t translate as truly acting. Every line, every gesture is carried with such control that it does not come across as real. The child actors and majority of the extras are clearly amateurs. Their performances are on the other end of Tiwa’s, expressed with an exaggerated, almost comical severity.

Water and Garri’s thematic focus—grief and what we do with it—is a fertile theme on whose shoulders great films like Fathers and Daughters have rested. But Water and Garri lacks the ingredients of a great film. And save for some technical security, it struggles to pass as a good film. The complexity of grief this film is desperately trying to depict is absent. There is no life-altering consequence to grandma and Mide’s death on Aisha. She suffers loss, but not so acutely that her life, or the life of others around her, is permanently ruined. Stephany (Jemima Osunde) carries her grief a tad believably, but constantly playing across Tiwa douses her.

There is a cacophony to the film, a vignette of plot points without leaning into any specific one properly. What is Stephany’s deal? Why are you mirroring her grief with Aishas? Where is her arc?

There is an unbelievability pervading Eastside as well. It has no sense of danger for a place declared violent. It has no presence outside its beauty. It looks like a gaudy music video with Tiwa as the lead artiste. Yet there is so much gang violence that Aisha leads us to believe should make it forgotten and uninhabitable. This idyllic community where she is a superstar everyone knows and loves. It is just not believable.

And for Aisha. Which of the two is the important, character-developing, trauma-inducing loss; grandma’s or her brother’s? What does it do to overlay her character other than sweat-induced nightmares? Why does the tone constantly shift? The film visually oscillated between polished romance to gritty romance to comedic at various points, and to varying degrees. The constancy is that this work looks like a bright-coloured, gay, 80-minute music video.

There is no solid antagonist, just a random guy completing a superficial arc. That is intriguing because he’s the only character in the entire film with a believably earned arc. But for a large chunk of this work, it feels very cringe-worthy as a film. And it closes out with a predictable twist. When we arrive at the closing scene, there is the fatigue one gets from ingesting too much sugar, which, you must agree, is about apt for a film titled Water and Garri.

Culled from www.whatkeptmeup.com


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